Serendipity as part of business development

19 07 2006

There is something missing from most business development project evaluations, serendipity.

Defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”.

Seth Godin has outlined why companies fear business development (Link). It’s hard to justify the expense and risk on new ventures and projects. The control aspect asserted by legal and financial people reflects one reality inside the company, but don’t forget the other side reflected by the sales, marketing and business development people.

If it’s a good to great idea, and the cost is low, and the chance of success is moderate to good, and the possibility of adding knowledge to the organization is part of the project, then go ahead and try.

Can your organization consider and discuss “serendipity” as a factor in your next business development meeting?

Related Links

Seth Godin: Careful consideration and analysis

Ideas from the “World’s Best Companies”

19 07 2006

I was reading the April 2006 issue of Business 2.0, entitled “Best Kept Secrets of the World’s Best Companies”. What struck me was that the companies profiled are jumbo, mega-corporations (immediately causing a frown and the question “why aren’t there any small or medium sized companies?”.

I doubt that these are the company’s best kept secrets, but the ideas are interesting if you remember they were designed for and implemented in large organizations (which we seem to associate with success).

The ideas presented were:

  1. Benchmarking – compare everything to the competition
  2. Lending library – have materials available that can provoke creativity
  3. Devil’s advocacy- promote debate
  4. Physically put the boss in the day to day operations
  5. Look for bad news and talk about it
  6. Use external consultants to promote ideas and research
  7. Creative equity arrangements for start-ups, new projects
  8. Everyone is the HR department
  9. Review and question strategy
  10. Peers chose their leaders
  11. Creative economic solution to avoid theft and loss
  12. Executive pay determined by results and collaboration
  13. Prediction markets
  14. Graffiti, promote communication outside “normal” channels
  15. Use greed to motivate, sell and inspire
  16. Maintain work related contact with retirees
  17. Crowdsourcing and open-source advertising
  18. Use employees to watch trends and monitor the market
  19. Hire someone to watch shareholder interests, not the CEO
  20. 3 minute daily morning meeting
  21. Get board members out regularly with customers and front-line workers
  22. Get executives out with customers and product/service users
  23. Pay your people if they save you money
  24. Take the “hard sell” out of your sales force
  25. Become a customer of your own company

First thought: Is it practical or necessary for small and medium sized companies to embrace and implement these ideas and strategies (In a large organization there are large problems, in a small organization there are small ones)?

Second thought: Given the multi-tasking of all employees and executives in small and medium sized organizations, is it realistic to expect results that echo the large corporations if these ideas are implemented on a smaller level? If you believe that a large organization will be populated by specialists and in small organizations generalists are predominant, are the ideas presented applicable to both environments (What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander)?

Third thought: How much of the success attributed to the ideas and strategies are because employees feel part of a large important project that has purpose (Everyone smiles during the parade)? How much of the positive response is because workers feel that leadership is aware and concerned about them and their problems (I am important, my contribution is important and they know it)?

How many of the 25 ideas are related to communication, strategy, customer feedback, cost savings, knowledge of the industry, knowledge of the customer, agility and flexibility….aren’t all these factors inherent in a small business? In fact, without competence in these areas the small business fails quickly.

Perhaps a great idea, number 26, for big corporations would be to take a look at the core competencies required by successful small business owners, and insure that these specialties and areas of expertise are well represented and disseminated throughout their large organization.

Related Links

Crowdsourcing, a potential resource for your business

Business Strategy, has it become a commodity?

18 07 2006

Here’s something I’ve written about earlier, but worth thinking about often.

Umair Haque has written Laws of the Post-Network Economy: Strategy is a Commodity in the BubbleGeneration blog.

His basic idea is that organizations are all creating and implementing strategy, it no longer provides clear differentiation from other companies as it did in the past. Strategy has become part of a “standard operating procedure”, it is a commodity process found in every business.

The playing field has been levelled.

Strategy is necessary, but no longer the important tool of change and value creation it was 20 years ago.

He suggests that the next value creation “tool” that organizations are and will be using is that of creativity.

“I think it is going to have to do with creativity. In a world where strategy is a commodity, creativity becomes the vital factor from which value flows. When everyone can think strategically about everything, the locus of value creation shifts from out-thinking everyone to out-creating them. The prime mover of value creation becomes putting the ability to create (goods, services, processes – even strategies) at the heart and soul of the firm.” (Link)

I’m a big believer that the best business ideas are those that no one else is currently using (Link). Once your business tools, human resources, sales and marketing and finance departments are all doing it like everyone else, it’s not going to be great, it’s not going to be exciting, it’s not going to create a profitable future.

What could happen to your organization and your industry if creativity is viewed and promoted as the most important business tool you have NOW, to create and prepare for the future?

On the other hand, what if Umair is wrong, and strategy is not a commodity?

What will occur if the future requires that we constantly “out-think” the competition?

Related Links

Strategy Redux – The Execution Economy

There are no new management and leadership ideas

What are you doing to eliminate uncertainty at your workplace?

17 07 2006

The last week in Mexico has been filled with political, economic and social uncertainty due to the recent Presidential elections and failure to declare a clear victor. As the political parties are working overtime to sell their version of the truth, the rest of Mexico is trying to function “normally”. The uncertainty is affecting the way people live and work, and work/life decisions they are making or avoiding.

It makes perfect sense that uncertainty in our lives and business environment will cause; increased stress, conflicts, delayed decisions, anxiety, and wasted time. Decision-making will be altered, and priorities shifted until “stability” is achieved or perceived.

A leader will intervene at this critical time, to provide a plan or make the required decisions to limit or eliminate the doubt and uncertainty.

Failure to address these issues on time will insure that your leadership status will be diminished, work flow reduced, conflicts created and efficiency and effectiveness lowered.
Start a list, identify the areas of uncertainty that affect you, your department, your company, your industry. Ask your people what factors of uncertainty they can identify as important.

What can be done to reduce, control or eliminate the doubt and uncertainty you have identified?

Can you create scenarios, can you change important factors and outcomes, can you actively seek new ideas and solutions?

Your people expect you, as the leader, to identify and create strategies, to eliminate or minimize doubt and uncertainty….are you doing your job?

Related Links

The business leadership crisis, are you part of the problem? (Link)

There are no new management and leadership ideas

15 07 2006

Business, management and leadership ideas and trends are as changeable as the weather or women’s fashion.  In fact there are no new ideas, just old ideas in new packages.

Just as hem lines go up and down over time, and ties move from thin to thick, “new” ideas on how to do business re-appear with regularity.
The funny thing is that the “new” business ideas do work.  The ideas really work until everyone is copying them, and putting them to work in their own company…then it’s boring.  Once it becomes standard operating procedure, everyone is operating at the same level.

But lucky for us, there is always a crafty, creative, dissenting voice who says “hey, why not do this?”….and we do.  Old fundamental business ideas in shiny new boxes.

What do I mean by old fundamental business ideas?

  • Pay attention to your objectives, take the time and determine what you really want to achieve.
  • Pay attention to quality in your service, your products and your people
  • Support and seek constant innovation and creativity in your people, products and services
  • Keep your people motivated and demand results
  • Invest and reinvest in the best people, ideas, and technology in your industry
  • Listen to your customers
  • Educate your customers
  • Question how and why you are doing business, all the time
  • Be flexible
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • Keep learning

I’m sure there are hundreds more, but the more I see the business fads come and go, the more sure I am that what really works is doing something different from the status quo.

Related Links:

The New Rules, Fortune takes a shot at Jack Welch

Tearing up the Jack Welch playbook


The business leadership crisis, are you part of the problem?

6 07 2006

Rosa Say has given us some food for thought in a piece entitled Where’s the Boss at She identifies significant problems with executives today…..the inability to implement empowerment in the organization and the lack of executive involvement in the day-to-day operations. True leadership has disappeared from many organizations

A leader must understand what is happening at the day-to-day operations level if they wish to understand the business. The real action happens (or doesn’t happen) at this level, and not in the corporate boardroom.

The bosses job consists of two major activities: facilitating the work and efficiency of workers and creating strategies, goals and objective for the future. You can’t supervise efficiently, intervene or lead unless your people believe in you and your understanding of their jobs.

When was the last time you rolled up your sleeves and spent a full day at the operations level, listening, asking questions and observing?

Do you know what your people do and what is preventing them from doing it better?

Shouldn’t this be part of your daily routine?

Related Posts

Managing with Aloha (Link)

Corporate leaders and management still aren’t listening (Link)

More access to information – more mistakes

5 07 2006

We have easy access to mountains of business information, we have computers, data bases, statistics, websites, blogs and 24 hour a day news channels.

Has this made our life and decision-making easier and more accurate? No. According to management-issues in an article entitled Paying the Price for Flawed Data (Link), we are making serious mistakes based on inaccurate or inappropriate data.

A quote from the article:

“A survey of workers in the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany carried out for business intelligence solutions provider, Business Objects, claims that the widespread use of faulty business data is a dirty little secret in today’s business world but is going largely unnoticed by businesses.

It found that almost three-quarters of information workers admitted to having made business decisions that later turned out to be wrong due to incorrect, incomplete, or contradictory business data or information.

Compounding this, only about one in 10 information workers said they always have all the information they need to confidently make business decisions.” (Link)

It’s not about collecting mountains of information, it’s about questioning what we wish to know, and then selecting and collecting the information that will help us find the answers.

What do you want to know?

Where can you get the correct information?

How do you know you have the correct data?

Related Links:

How much time do you spend with statistics (Link)

How to set up a beginner’s business intelligence system (Link)

Was Peter Drucker right? Is it all about attitude? (Link)

Downsizing can seriously disrupt your company’s networks

27 06 2006

An article in ManagingTechnology@Wharton from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has an excellent piece related to your employees and their value in the company in terms of their networks and networking abilities.

Mapping out the communication networks and social networks may be a very valuable tool for your organization. Yet another factor to consider before downsizing or when evaluating the contributions of the people in your organization.

Sometimes it’s not what you know….but who you know that makes you valuable.

Connecting the Corporate Dots: Social Networks Reveal How Employees and Companies Operate

Some quotes from the article:

“Hopefully, you have organized your company the best way to get the job done,” she says. “But mapping out a network will give you a sense of whether actual work flow and communication flow match what you hope to achieve. Maybe there are bottlenecks where one person is managing all interactions. If you expect two groups to work together closely, and you don’t see them doing this, you might want to create liaison roles or other relationships to make information flow better. On the other hand, you may see groups talking to each other too much. When managers see network diagrams, they often realize they need to reconfigure their organizational chart.”

“Network maps may also unearth what are known as “cosmopolitans” — the employees who are most critical to information flow in the company. “The formal organizational structure [in companies] does not necessarily describe who talks to whom,” says Valery Yakubovich, a University of Chicago professor “

“Often you find that people you might not even think of as very valuable turn out to be important links in the structure of the organization.”

“If a firm is contemplating downsizing, for example, it had better be prepared for serious disruption in the workplace if it lets such important people go. Indeed, maps of social networks often show that the people with the most impressive titles are not as vital to an organization as their position would indicate.”

ManagingTechnology@Wharton, Connecting the Corporate Dots: Social Networks Reveal How Employees and Companies Operate (Article)

Create a debate – find out who really wants the project to work

26 06 2006

I’ve always been the “Devil’s Advocate”, and a contrary voice throughout my career/life. Not because I’m a negative person, but to question and create a discussion about a project or idea. Too often ideas are not questioned due to “group think”, peer pressure or fear, resulting in projects and plans that have not been embraced by the members, and will slowly fizzle away and fail.

Who really wants the idea to work? Without a bit of an argument or debate, I find it difficult to determine who is committed to the idea, and ultimately this is what matters. Commitment by group members does not insure success, but it facilitates communication and guarantees that everyone is shooting at the same target.
This is why I loved Cuculuains blog entry “Don’t fear the Devil’s Advocate” at Businesspundit

I believe his observations are important in that they ask you to create an attitude and environment in your company that actively seeks to promote debate and question the merits of an idea WITHOUT fear of losing their job or offending members of the group. Create the position of Devil’s Advocate at each meeting or presentation, and let the company know you are creating an environment that promotes and can reward ideas and debate.

The idea of implementing constructive criticism and encouraging your people to play the “devil’s advocate”can only result in more communication, better project presentations and more unity in final decision-making.

Related Entries:

Invite a Challenge from 2 Weeks 2 a Breakthrough

Weird Ideas that Work

Does your company like new ideas?

The clients I don’t want

26 06 2006

In business the key is to find, promote and satisfy a specific customer for your specific product or service. Not every customer is desirable for your image or brand (see When your brand gets accepted by the wrong consumers

In consultancy the very same principal applies, and should be rigorously applied in the evaluation of a potential customer. If the customer is not happy with my intervention and actual results they will not recommend me to others, and far more important, may actively campaign against me.

Sell your service to those who can use it, or are willing to try it. Do not take on a customer who shows the following “red flags”. Openly discuss these concerns before signing the contact and accepting the job.

You should be 100% convinced that you understand the company’s goals and their resources dedicated to solving the problem. You should be 100% convinced that you can meet or provide the information required in order for them to meet their goal and objectives. You should be convinced that the organization understands exactly what you are offering them and the time required.

5 Reasons for a Business Consultant to say NO to a Potential Client

  1. An organization that hires a consultant to tell them they are doing everything correctly. This type of company would like to use a professional “outsider” to validate their behavior, methods and results.
  2. A company that is going through the motions, but not interested or involved in implementing your ideas. Discuss this with potential clients before hiring. Ask if there is money and time budgeted for implementing new ideas and procedures. Suggest hypothetical situations and ask how the company would react and why. What resources (time, personnel, money) are they willing to dedicate in order to solve the problem?

  3. A business that is in obvious imminent danger of bankruptcy, closure or elimination from the marketplace. These types of organizations are seeking any type of life preserver and willing to accept any help, but often times it’s too late. They are often desperate, broke, pressed for time, faced with massive problems that cannot be solved quickly, many times the internal atmosphere is corrupted by power struggles, bad attitudes, and low morale. This type of business is a challenge to a consultant, but my questions are always, why didn’t they ask for help and advice when the problem took on serious proportions, why did they wait? How will it reflect on you as a consultant if you take the job and cannot turn the situation around? Do they have the mental, emotional and financial resources to follow and implement your ideas?
  4. An organization that is in an obvious leadership battle, they want to use you and your ideas to “overpower” their internal adversaries and strengthen their own powerbase. Who is hiring you? What position do they have in the company? What are their reasons for hiring a consultant? Who is supporting the idea to bring in a consultant and who is against it? Why?
  5. A company that does not have a clear reason or objective for hiring a consultant. There are great reasons to bring in a consultant; to hear new ideas, to solve a specific problem, to provide motivation and education, to identify potential problems or opportunities, to get an professional opinion from outside of the corporate structure just to name a few. If the potential client cannot clearly explain what they want or what they expect you to do, watch out.

It’s hard to walk away from a customer with money, but it’s even worse to take the job when you can’t deliver the expected results.

Current Resume – Lee Iwan – March 2007

27 04 2006


Lee Iwan

International Business Development

Sales & Management Executive

Accomplished bilingual and bi-cultural executive with broad based domestic and international experience in business discovery and development; sales, marketing and operations for start-ups, growth and mature organizations.

Results oriented, proven success in new market identification, strategic thinking, negotiations and pragmatic problem solving. Track record of “hands on” leadership increasing communication, sales, efficiency and profitability.

Thrive in dynamic and fluid environments requiring enthusiasm, creativity, communication skills and organization.

Core competencies include:

Relationships and Communication

Team Leadership

Cross Culture Liaison

Innovation and Change Management

Global Focus

Entrepreneurial Focus

Contingency Planning


QUIMICA CENTRAL DE MEXICO S.A. de C.V. Leon, Gto., México July 1998 – Present

Business Manager, Strategic Business Discovery & Development May 2005 – Present

Serve as independent executive working directly with CEO and Board of Directors. Fully responsible for the visualization, research, creation, communication, follow-through, analysis, planning and implementation of new business development and corporate strategic diversification projects.

Key Achievements:

  • Project Leader, pharmaceutical joint venture (Swiss-México), manufacturing and commercial operations .
  • Spearheading strategic alliance negotiations to increase long-term market share and global positioning.
  • Ongoing negotiations with India and China for product representations, agencies and toll manufacturing.

Business Manager, International Business March 2000 – May 2005

Served as Business Manager, responsible for global sales and marketing, distribution and logistics, and all corporate international negotiations with clients and suppliers.

Directed export sales and market development, international supplier strategic alliances; leadership of export sales distribution and agency networks; cross-functional team participation; business intelligence; sales and marketing strategy and leadership for the Asia Pacific and Latin American regions; sales implementation and market development; logistics and supply chain management, cross cultural communications, “globalization” of company culture and corporate special projects.

Key Achievements:

  • Created and implemented commercial entrance for Asia-Pacific market, first 3 years revenue $ 5 M (US), projected annual sales growth of 200%.
  • Initiated and maintained strategic alliances with international suppliers, raw material cost savings of $ 2 M (US) fortified long term strategic positioning.
  • Negotiated exclusive agency representations in Mexico for South African and US specialty chemical manufacturers.
  • Increased company global competitiveness utilizing the export department to drive corporate cultural changes in strategic planning, production, time to market, supply chain and logistics, sales, marketing and administration.

Export Manager July 1998 – March 2000

Served as Export Manager, responsible for sales, distribution and marketing strategy and management for 20 countries including Latin America, US, Europe and Taiwan.

Key Achievements:

  • Created new commission and base price structure for agents and distributors resulting in increased loyalty and increased revenue of 8%.
  • Re-engineered department systems to increase revenue and customer loyalty through increased efficiency in communications, administrative processes and product shipping.
  • Managed international sales force in Latin America and Asia Pacific regions (18 distributors / agents).

NUVIDA S.A. de C.V., León, Guanajuato, México January 1993 – July 1998


Served as President for start-up specialty service business, corporate and government clients.

Key Achievements:

  • Alliance between private industry, State and Local government to create and maintain 100-acre interactive ecological area – Parque Explora.
  • Managed workforce of 45.
  • First workforce in the State to receive State Certification (training and operations procedures).

FLOWERS FLOWERS INC., Evanston, IL, USA March 1986 – August 1993 Owner–President-Entrepreneur

Served as President for start-up innovative luxury consumer goods and service business.

Responsibilities included: strategy and planning, management, sales and marketing, purchasing and operations.


Bachelor of Science Agricultural Economics * University of Illinois – Urbana, IL 1980


Board Member, State Chemical Industry Export Committee, COFOCE, February 2007 – Present

Weblog: Business South of the Border August 2006 – Present

Weblog: Lee Iwan Accumulated Experience April 2006- Present

Business Development Mission, Chennai, India, February 2007

Chromium Industry Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, February 2006

Commercial Mission, New Delhi, Mumbai India, November 2005

Course: Finance for Non-Financial Managers, 2005

Business Development Mission: Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2004

Board Member, State Leather Industry Consulting Committee, COFOCE, 2000 – Present

ANPIC, Mexican Leather Industry Fair, Leon, Gto., Mexico, 1999 – Present

ISO 9001:2000, Certification Process, 2003 – 2006

Business Development Mission: Geneva, Switzerland & Moscow, Russia, 2004

Business Development Mission: Istanbul, Turkey, 2003

All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE), Shanghai, China 2002 – 2005

Guangzhou Leather Fair, Guangzhou, China, 2002 – 2005

Business Development: Geneva, Switzerland, 2002

Commercial Mission: Mexico – Central America, 2000 – 2002

Asia Pacific Leather Fair, Hong Kong, 1999 – 2005

Linneapelle, Bologna, Italy, 1999 – 2005

Commercial Mission: Mexico – China, 2000 – 2001

Business Development: Amsterdam, Holland, 2000

Business Development: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, 2000

Miami Leather Fair, Miami, FL, USA 1999 –2001

Business Development: Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, 1999

FENAC, Leather Fair, Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, 1999

Course: Mexican International Commerce Legislation, 2001 – 2004

Diploma: Modifications in the Mexican Customs Legislation, 2003

Diploma: International Commerce – Logistics, 2001

Diploma: International Commerce, 2000

Course: The Strategic Salesperson, 1999

Periodico AM, Newspaper Columnist. 1994 – 1996

Society of American Florists, Editorial Board, 1990 – 1992

Chicago-Dempster Merchants Association, Vice President, 1988 – 1990